Putting the “Pro” in Protein

Alex Badlissi

Protein is one of three macronutrients your body needs to survive and thrive. Not only is it vital for building and repairing muscle tissue, it also helps with hormone and enzyme production. When it comes to muscle development, protein intake is extremely important. Questions I typically hear from clients include, “How much protein do I need?”, “How much can I consume at one time?”, “What type of protein powder is best?” and, “What are the downsides of consuming too much?”

How much protein one needs depends on a few variables. The person’s weight, goals, and lifestyle all factor in to how much they will need to consume for each meal they are eating. The general rule of thumb is you should strive for 1 gram per pound of body weight. A study published in 2017 found that the ideal intake was 0.7 grams per pound, while a study published in 2018 found that 0.7-1.1 grams per pound was sufficient. I typically tell my clients that someone with a lower body fat percentage will need to stay on the higher end of protein intake, while someone with a higher body fat percentage would be able to stay on the lower end.

As far as how much the body can utilize in one sitting, varies from person to person. Studies from 20-30 years ago claimed that a person should only consume 15-25 grams at one time. A meta-analysis from 2020 has found that the body can metabolize and utilize far more than that. It is now believed that closer to 45-55 grams can be consumed at one time and the body will make use of it. It is hard to pinpoint an exact gram per pound range given many studies provide conflicting conclusions, and everyone’s body is different.

Drinking your protein post workout can be a great way to feed your muscles and promote protein synthesis. There are so many options when it comes to protein powders, that it can be hard to know which type is best. In my own opinion I generally try to promote whey isolate. Isolate goes through more rigorous filtration to remove fats and impurities. For people who are vegan or vegetarian, plant-based proteins can be a great way to make sure you’re getting your daily protein requirement.

For years many critics of a high protein diet claimed that it caused issues with bone density and development and could be harmful to the kidneys. The bone density claim came from a study in the 1980’s but has been disproven since. The study was disregarded because it didn’t account for the participants previous health issues or diet. It also couldn’t be duplicated in two other peer reviewed studies. The concern that high protein intake can affect your kidneys has never been proven in any study to date.

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